Utah's Sen. Lee Still Leads Democrat-Backed 'Romney Independent' McMullin (Newsmax)
Despite an unusual coalition of Democrats and followers of Sen. Mitt Romney, R.-Utah, independent Senate hopeful Evan McMullin is clearly not catching on in the twilight days of his campaign against Utah’s senior GOP Sen. Mike Lee.
No survey has yet to show McMullin — a former congressional staffer who ran for president as an independent in 2016 — leading stalwart conservative and two-termer Lee.
According to a just-completed Deseret News poll of likely voters statewide, Lee leads McMullin by 42 to 37 percent. Another 12 percent say they do not know who they would pick and 5 percent said they would vote for the Independent American or Libertarian candidates.
“I don’t believe the race is really that close,” veteran GOP consultant Lew Moore of Provo (UT) told Newsmax, adding that McMullin’s strength in the Beehive State was widely overestimated in ’16 (He ended up drawing 21.54 percent, compared to 27.46 for Hillary Clinton and 45.54 percent for Donald Trump).
In a state that last sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1970, the Democratic organization opted against nominating a candidate and instead gave its blessing to “never Trumper” McMullin.
More interestingly, Lee’s Senate colleague Romney has steadfastly refused to support the senior senator for re-election and many of his supporters are firmly in the McMullin camp.
Moore pointed out that “the elite here tried to bring us ranked choice voting, like Romney’s buddy [moderate GOP Sen.] Lisa Murkowski did to Alaska. That really would have given the McMullin plot a chance. But fortunately, it has so far been relegated to a pilot municipal project.”
Under the ranked choice rules, voters cast ballots for their first choice candidate as well as second and third choices — regardless of party. Should no candidate receive a majority of first choice votes, the bottom candidate is eliminated and his or her second choice is counted among the top vote-getters.
Now used for all offices in Alaska and to pick most offices in Maine, ranked choice has a pattern of favoring more centrist candidates over conservatives.
With backing from Democrats and non-conservative Republicans, McMullin says he opposes “total bans on abortion, onerous limits on birth control, and criminalization of women in desperate situations” and advocates “for sensible legislation that improves support for women, children and families.”
But syndicated columnist and best-selling author Mollie Hemingway recently reminded Utahans that McMullin in ’16 criticized Trump for not being pro-life enough and criticized the Republican hopeful’s refusal to say “I want Roe v. Wade overturned.”
“I’m the only pro-life candidate in the race,” McMullin tweeted on October 19, 2016, noted Hemingway.
With two weeks to go before Utahans elect a senator, Evan McMullin’s unusual candidacy has drawn swatches of publicity nationwide. Whether that translates into a strong showing at the polls remains to be seen.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.